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2020's most viral skin care product is trending again — so we had to try it

It's definitely giving us "vampire facial" vibes.
Illustration of Danielle Murphy useing the Ordinary's Peeling Solution
TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Danielle Murphy

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Like many people, I've become slightly obsessed with TikTok. I can waste hours swiping through countless 15-second videos that range from genuinely hilarious to completely bizarre.

Though I typically expect to get a few laughs while scrolling, I never expect to find anything remotely helpful or informative. That all changed when I came across this slightly terrifying-looking face mask, The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution.

The powerful exfoliant, which went viral on the app last year for its eye-catching dark red formula, is becoming especially popular once again after recently winning an Allure Readers' Choice Award for 2021.

After coming across TikTok user Kaelyn White's video of her skin's impressive before and after transformation — which has now been favorited over 639,000 times and shared by 94,000 viewers — I knew I had to get my hands on this product. And did I mention it's less than $8?

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

I reached out to dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, who told me the ingredients are perfect for anyone looking to revive their skin's appearance.

"The chemical exfoliating solution is a great option for those looking to improve the appearance of fine lines, blemishes, pores, dullness and texture," Garshick told us. "Containing different hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid, it helps to address various skin care concerns."

According to Garshick, the lactic and glycolic acids have anti-aging benefits thanks to their ability to stimulate collagen production, while salicylic acid helps to unclog pores and fight acne.

Knowing that the ingredients had the expert seal of approval, I purchased a bottle and treated myself to some self-care. When I first applied the product, I was shocked by how red it appeared in person. It's essentially the color of blood. In fact, it immediately reminded me of Kim Kardashian's infamous "vampire facial."

TODAY/Daniel Boan

I smoothed a generous amount over my face and immediately noticed a slight tingling sensation. I was nervous it would eventually be too strong, but the feeling went away after about 30 seconds. After calming down from the initial scare, I let the mask sit on my skin for eight minutes. The bottle advises not to leave the solution on for longer than 10 minutes, so I wanted to give my sensitive skin a two-minute buffer.

Once the eight minutes were up, I was surprised by how easy it was to rinse off. My face was completely clear of the mask after just a few splashes of water.

Then, I lightly dried my face and looked at the results. I was pretty stunned. My skin looked immediately brighter, plumper and just generally refreshed. I felt like I could see some slight improvement in the texture around my nose, and it even seemed like some of the redness under my eyes had been reduced. Most surprisingly of all, I experienced absolutely no irritation anywhere on my face. I've used the treatment three times since, and I've been incredibly happy with how smooth and clear my skin has been this month.

Associate commerce editor Danielle Murphy, who swears by this peeling solution's skin-clearing powers, can also attest to the formula's surprisingly gentle feel. "I use this once a week and keep the treatment on for the full 10 minutes," she said. "I always pick this up when my skin is feeling congested or when I start to see a few blemishes form. I never leave it on for longer than the suggested time limit so as to avoid any chance of redness or damage, but I'm always happy with the results."

Courtesy Danielle Murphy

That being said, the initial tingling sensation is proof that this stuff is pretty potent. Garshick recommended starting with only using it once a week if you have sensitive skin, and I definitely suggest following her advice. But in my opinion, it's worth the extra caution because of the immediate results this magical formula provides.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to apply my weekly treatment of The Ordinary's Peeling Solution and try not to get distracted by TikTok.

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This article was originally published on March 30, 2020.